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Obama signs tobacco law, cites own struggle to quit smoking

The president OKs legislation that gives the FDA regulation power and aims to stop youth-marketing.

June 23, 2009|Christi Parsons

WASHINGTON — Citing his own experience as a teenage smoker, President Obama on Monday predicted that a new law giving the Food and Drug Administration sweeping power to regulate tobacco will help young people avoid the smoking habit he has struggled with for years.

The measure, which Obama signed into law Monday, will ban candy-, fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes and prohibit use of tobacco-product logos and brand names in sponsoring athletic and entertainment events.

The law also requires that tobacco companies fully disclose ingredients and additives, stop targeting youth with their marketing campaigns, quit using terms such as "light," "low" and "mild" to market their products, and include warning labels on packaging that dominate the front and rear panels.

Nearly a quarter of high school students in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

And people who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time quitting, the agency reports. About 30% of youth smokers will die early from a smoking-related disease.

At a bill-signing ceremony at the White House, Obama said, "I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time."

He gave up cigarettes as part of a deal with his wife, Michelle, who wanted him to quit before he took on the rigors of a presidential campaign.

But in recent weeks, aides to the president have tacitly acknowledged that his nicotine habit isn't a thing of the past.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said: "It's something that he continues to struggle with . . . like millions of Americans have."

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cparsons@tribune.com

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